Sports are defined by rivalries. Think to the great games of Magic and Bird. Barcelona and Real Madrid. Even Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Rivalries make up the games that everyone remem- bers, and the true mark of every era. At a time where America is anxiously awaiting a boxing match that may never happen, everyone should be tuned into the great three-way battle in tennis. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won every major tournament except one since the middle of 2005.
All three have distinct personalities, which has given them success in the past. Federer is cool, calm and collected and has gar- nered 16 Grand Slam champion- ships, the most in men’s tennis history. Nadal stood in the way of Federer with his exuberant play- ing style and his dominance on clay courts. Djokovic is the player that always looks like he won’t be able to keep up until he rides out the storm.
In the beginning, it was Federer against Nadal. Those two won 11 straight Grand Slam titles from 2005-2008 and became the new version of tennis greats Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. In the 2008 Wimbledon Final, Nadal defeated Federer in the greatest match that I have ever seen. Nadal won the first two sets before dropping the next two to tiebreakers and surviving the final set to win in a tiebreaker.
However, Djokovic threw a wrench into those two’s plans for dominating the sport by stealing a championship in 2008, and then currently winning four of the last five Grand Slams. Djokovic has been unstoppable as of late, going 70-6 last year, including a 43-match winning streak until a loss in the French Open.
If someone isn’t watching these Grand Slam semi-finals and finals matches, they’re not only missing great tennis, they’re missing some of the greatest sporting events of all time.
Djokovic outlasted Nadal in the Australian Open last weekend after clashing for five hours and 53 minutes. Not only was it the longest match in Grand Slam Final history, but Djokovic also battled back after dropping the fourth set in a tiebreaker to one of the best players in the world.
Can anyone imagine watching his or her favorite athlete fight nearly six hours for a championship? It’s one of the greatest sights to watch and can excite any sports fan. The passion, the fire and the skill level shown in these classics are must-see events.
Yet, Djokovic only made it to the finals after winning the last two sets against Andy Murray in a five-set victory. Murray is another twist in these great tennis sagas because he is the loveable loser. In any other era, Murray would be at the top of tennis and battling for Grand Slam championships. However, he is has yet to break- through in a Grand Slam, although he reached the semi-finals in each event last year.
The rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird is what carried the NBA through the 1980’s and gave each season a major storyline. Now imagine if Michael Jordan was born 10 years earlier and could have joined in on the greatest rivalry in basket- ball. This is what tennis is going through right now. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will all go down as some of the greatest tennis players in history, and it’s a privilege that they’re playing at the same time.
I’m not the biggest tennis fan in the world, and I don’t know the ins-and-outs of the sport entirely. However, I’m a fan of great athlet- ic spectacles, and this is what these rivalries bring each tournament. If anybody wants to see the best tennis players in the world battle time after time throughout the years, it’s time to tune in because this is what you don’t want to miss.